A study at Virginia Tech provides further evidence that motorists can indeed be distracted when cell phones are used in various ways. The study was financed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Institutes of Health. Research results have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Tracking Eye Movements
In the study, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute researchers utilized GPS, lane trackers, cameras and additional gadgetry to measure changes in both speed and acceleration while mobile devices were in use. Video cameras were used to track driver eye movements to ascertain when eyes were on the road and when they were not.
Different Demographics Studied
Two very different demographics were involved in the research: motorists averaging 20-years of driving experience and drivers 16-17 years of age. Investigations into the impact of smart phone and other mobile device usage by motorists is of particular interest given the popularity of such devices with younger drivers and the much higher incidence of accidents in that demographic. Specifically, drivers 20-years of age and younger constitute six percent of all American drivers, yet they are responsible for 10 percent of all traffic fatalities. They also account for 14 percent of all accidents reported to law enforcement.
Increased Accident Potential
Researchers did find that manually dialing a phone, texting, or merely reaching for a cell phone all increased the odds of having near-misses or actual crashes. The Virginia Tech study did not establish a clear correlation between accidents and near-misses with speaking on a mobile phone, although researchers did not distinguish between handheld and hands-free usage.
Laws vary, but certain states have banned the use of handheld cell phones while driving, and a greater number of states have banned texting while driving. A Stuart, FL car accident attorney representing a client injured in a traffic accident in which a driver was using a cell phone may sometimes cite this as evidence of the negligent operation of a motor vehicle. For more information, or to discuss the specifics of your situation, please contact us.